"Yes, my dear, this evening. They are enjoying them selves excessively; the weather has been charming, and they have had the most delightful excursions in the Ober land. They are on the point of passing the Simplon for Italy. Marie will write to me from Baveno, Hotel de - " "Capital ! and how are they?" "Quite well." "And they still mean to go to Constantinople on that important business?" "Yes, N - has had a letter urging him to go; they will take Italy only en route. They hope to embark at Naples in a month, at latest. But Marie tells me they B 2 cannot return within a year. She does not appear to think much of so long an absence, but it gives me a pang which no arguments for its necessity can alleviate." "Ah ! well, but do you expect our children to marry for our advantage? And was it not settled that it should be so? They say affection seldom stands the test of living constantly together on a journey. N - is a good, noble fellow, hard-working, and a little ambitious, which is no bad thing. Marie loves him; she has intelli gence and good health. They will pass the trial success fully, I have not a doubt, and will return to us well-tried companions for life, thoroughly acquainted with each other, and having learned how to further and to suffice for one another's happiness; and with that spice of inde pendence which is so necessary for preserving a good under standing with one's neighbours." "I daresay you are right, my dear; but this long absence is not the less painful to me, and this year will seem a long one. I shall certainly be glad when I begin to prepare their rooms for them here, and have only a few days to reckon till I may hope to see them again." "Certainly, certainly; and I too shall be delighted to see them at home. Paul, too ! But as it is certain they will be a year away, it would be a fine opportunity for tesuming my plan." "What, my dear? Do you mean building the house you were thinking of, on that bit of land which is part of Marie's dowry? I beg of you to do nothing of the kind.
We have quite enough room for them here, and for their children, if they have any. And, after this long absence, it will be a new trial to me to have Marie settled at a distance from us - not to have her near me. Besides, her husband cannot stay three-quarters of a year in the country. His engagements do not allow of it. Marie would then be alone. What can she do in a house all to herself, with her husband absent?" "She will do, my love, as you did yourself, when my business called me - as it did too often - away from home; yet we were young then. She will have her house to see after; she will get into the way of managing her property; she will have occupation and responsibilities; and so she will be satisfied with herself and with the result of her thought and work. Believe me, I have seen the warmest family affections weakened and destroyed by the habit of married children living with their parents. The wife likes to be mistress in her own house; and this is a sound and just feeling; we should not run counter to it. A woman who has been wisely educated, having a house to look after and the responsibility and independence which responsibility in every form brings with it, is more capable of maintaining her own dignity of character than one who has been kept all her life in a state of tutelage. Marie would be very comfortable here, very happy to be with us, and her husband would be not less satisfied in knowing that she was with us; but she would not have a home of her own. An unmarried daughter is only in her place when with her mother; but a wife is only in her place in her own house. A married woman in her mother's house takes her place only as a guest. And even if we suppose no mutual irrita tion to arise from this life in common - and this can hardly fail to arise - it is certain that indifference to practical interests, nonchalance, and even ennui, and all the dangers thence ensuing, are sure to be caused by it.
"You have brought up your daughter too well for her not to be ardently desirous of fulfilling all her duties; you have always shown her an example of activity too con spicuous for her not to wish to follow it. Let us, then, afford her the means of doing so. Will you not be better pleased to see her managing her own house, and delighted to entertain us there, than to have her here incessantly at your elbow, with nothing to do; a judge, silent and re spectful, if you like, but still a judge, of all your ways and doings? Do you think that her husband, when he can snatch a few moments from business, will enjoy as much pleasure in finding her constantly here, as he will expe rience at seeing her in her own house, delighted to show him all she has done during his absence; engaged in rendering their common abode more and more agreeable and convenient from day to day? If you reflect, you will observe that those who in our day have given, though in high social position, the most occasion for scandal, have been, for the most part, women whose early married life was passed thus, without a home of their own, leading that nondescript life which is neither that of the daughter nor the mistress of the house - the responsible housekeeper, to call things by their right names."
Some tears had moistened Madame de Gandelau's embroidery.
"You are right again, my dear,"said she, pressing her husband's hand;"your plan is just and reason able." Paul, though turning over the leaves of an illustrated periodical, had not lost a word of this conversation. The idea of seeing a house built for his eldest sister was very agreeable to him. Already, to his youthful imagination, this house in the future seemed, as compared with the old family mansion, a fairy palace, elegant and splendid, full of light and gaiety.
It must be confessed that M. de Gandelau's habitation had nothing to charm the eyes. Enlarged by successive additions, two long wings of gloomy aspect were clumsily patched on to the main body, - formerly a castle, two towers of which, dismantled and crowned by low roofs, flanked the angles. Between the two wings and this main building, there extended a courtyard, always damp, enclosed by old iron railings, and the remains of a moat now converted into a kitchen garden. A third wing, the prolongation of the old castellated building, erected by M. de Gandelau soon after his marriage, contained the private apartments of the family - the most attractive part of the chateau. The drawing and dining rooms, the billiard room, and M. de Gandelau's study formed part of the old main building. As to the two parallel wings, they con tained rooms opening into irregular passages, which, not being all on a level, were somewhat perilous to unwary feet.
Next morning, Paul, going to inquire how his pony was, met old Master Brancliu coming into the yard with a little cart full of pieces of wood, bags of plaster, and tools.
"What are you going to do with that, Master Branchu?" "I am going to mend the pigeon-house, Monsieur Paul." "How I should like to help you!" "No, Monsieur Paul, you would dirty your clothes; you might hurt yourself; it is not your business. But you may see us work, if you like." "It must be a capital amusement to build !" "As to amusement, it's no amusement; yet it isn't so disagreeable neither, when you have to work for a good gentleman like your father; when you have your pay regular, and a bottle of wine when it's hot; and when the people you work for do not grudge you what's reasonable - that's comfortable. You do your work, and pick up your tools at the end of the day with a merry heart. But when you have to do with close-fisted people, it's a miserable business, for you must pay for what you have to work with. This plaster in the cart, and the bricks, and so on, cost money of course. And if you can't get paid yourself, you must find money somewhere, and get into no end of trouble. But I must be off; there's my lad waiting for me." "Could you build a large house, Master Branchu?" "I should think so, Master Paul. Why, I built the mayor's, which is big enough in all conscience !" Meantime, Paul, no longer finds the hours hang heavily, as they did the day before; he has got an idea.
This house in prospect for his sister has seized on his im agination; he figures it to himself sometimes as a palace, sometimes as a turreted manor-house of the old style, sometimes as a Swiss cottage, covered with ivy and clematis, with innumerable carved balconies. He has a grown-up cousin who is an architect; he has often seen him at work at a drawing-board; under his hand buildings rose as by enchantment. It did not appear very difficult work. His cousin Eugene has the necessary instruments in the room he occupies when he comes to the chateau. Paul will try to put on paper one of those plans of which his imagination has given him a glimpse. But there is a difficulty at the outset. He must know what would suit his sister best; a baronial castle, with towers and battlements, a Swiss cottage, or an Italian villa. If it is to take her by sur prise, the surprise must be at any rate an agreeable one. After a good hour's meditation, M. Paul thinks, and with some reason, that he ought to go and consult his father.
"Oh, oh ! you are in a great hurry,"said his father, after Paul's first words."But we are not quite so far advanced as that. You want to draw a plan for Marie's house. Well, try then. But in the first place, we must know what your sister wants - how she would like her house arranged. After all, I am not sorry to hasten forward things a little. We will send her a telegram."